Judge Clark Douglas wishes he had a cool name like "Paddy" or "Dakota."
Live every moment, love every minute.
"He can't see me like this!"
Facts of the Case
Tessa Scott (Dakota Fanning, Man on Fire) is a British teen who is dying of leukemia. Her father (Paddy Considine, The Bourne Ultimatum) and mother (Olivia Williams, Dollhouse) are understandably distraught, but Tessa is mostly just weary of people treating her with pity. She has a list of things she'd like to try out before she dies (sex, drugs and alcohol are near the top), but worries that she may not have time or the opportunity to get to them all.
One day, Tessa strikes up a friendship with a good-natured young neighbor named Adam (Jeremy Irvine, War Horse). The friendship quickly blossoms into a romance, but when Adam discovers the full extent of Tessa's condition, he realizes that he may have signed up for more than he can handle.
On more than one occasion during the final act of Now is Good, I found a tear trickling down my cheek. Why? After all, the film hadn't really grabbed me very often, I honestly didn't find Tessa a particularly distinctive or likable protagonist and there were a handful of dramatic moments that felt rather staged. And yet, I cried. Of course I did. After all, it's a film about a young girl dying of leukemia. She's despondent about all of the things she'll never get to experience, she knows there's absolutely no hope for a cure and she's in physical agony. It's an awful situation that plenty of real people have gone through, and that reminder saddened me.
Not to get all metatextual here, but something happened recently that feels relevant enough to share. A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my office jotting down a few thoughts about the film. The gentlemen who cleans the building came in and starting talking to me. Eventually he asked me what I was writing about. I told him a bit about the plot of the film, and he suddenly turned rather melancholy. I asked him if he was okay, and he told me his sister was dying of cancer. As he proceeded to tell me her story, detailing the manner in which his sister had struggled in recent months, I found myself tearing up again. Life is full of sadness.
I realize that's not a profound insight, but neither is the one Now is Good offers: life is merely a series of moments, one after another until there simply aren't any more. We all have these moments. Some of us have more of them than others. Some of us have more good ones than others. This is unquestionably true, but what else does the film have to offer? Not a whole lot, honestly. It serves to remind us that life hands certain undeserving people some bad cards, but it doesn't do so in a manner that permits it to stand apart from plenty of other films that have said the same thing and much more. Terminal illness is an emotionally-loaded subject, and if you're going to explore it you can't simply rely on the sheer sadness of the illness itself to carry your film. You've got to have something else to say. Consider the unforgettable cinematic statements made by films like Wit, Cries and Whispers, 50/50 and Ikiru. Granted, Now is Good never becomes horrifically exploitative like My Sister's Keeper or any number of made-for-TV dramas, but it simply doesn't have enough substance to support its heavy subject.
Despite a highly-qualified cast, the performances are merely average. Dakota Fanning does well enough with her British accent, but it's always too easy to see the actress behind the character during her big scenes. Jeremy Irvine is ten times more wooden in his vanilla role than he was in War Horse; everything he does seems thoroughly artificial. Olivia Williams is completely wasted in the underwritten role of Tessa's mother, while the generally reliable Paddy Considine proves surprisingly unconvincing during a couple of crucial emotional moments. It's disappointing to receive such middling performances from such obviously talented people.
The DVD transfer is perfectly satisfactory, highlighting what is undoubtedly one of the finest attributes the film has to offer: the gorgeous locations. You wouldn't think a character-driven drama about leukemia would really lend itself to stunning scenic backdrops, but there are quite a few of them to behold over the course of Now is Good. Detail is solid enough and blacks are deep. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track benefits from some impressively catchy pieces of Brit-pop and proves engagingly aggressive on a few occasions. However, this is mostly a quiet, dialogue-driven affair.
It's always a bit difficult to give a negative review to a film like Now is Good without coming across as a little caustic. After all, it's a well-intentioned film about a terribly sad subject. Even so, there's a difference between merely reminding viewers of life's tragic elements and employing those elements in a successful drama. This film fails to do the latter.
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